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Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli : 
The Headings 


U pon a visit with Professor Jenny Strauss Clay in Charlottesville in 
November 1994, she made available to me a number of manuscripts, 
notes, and other documents from the estate of her father. Among them was 
the manuscript of Thoughts on Machiavelli. When I saw the clean copy 
written by Leo Strauss with an ink pen, I noticed that the author had not 
only numbered all the paragraphs chapter by chapter, but also, deviating 
from his usual practice, furnished each of them with a heading. I later tran¬ 
scribed the headings and shared them with friends. 

The transcript, which is being made public here for the first time, repro¬ 
duces all the headings exactly as Leo Strauss noted them for himself before 
he wrote the paragraphs of the book. Supplements that he made in pencil 
are indicated. Abbreviations and shorthand expressions were not eliminated 
in order to leave entirely untouched the private character of the notations. 
For the headings were not meant for publication. I also include the dates 
of the manuscript by which Strauss, following a habit maintained over de¬ 
cades, recorded for himself the periods of time during which he worked on 
his texts. 

The manuscript of Thoughts on Machiavelli, one of the great philo¬ 
sophic books of the twentieth century, has been archived in the Leo Strauss 
Papers, Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library 
since 1995. The transcript of the headings is published with the kind per¬ 
mission of Professor Nathan Tarcov, Literary Executor of the Estate of Leo 

Munich, September 20, 2015 
H. M. 



Thoughts on Machiavelli 

Introduction and Chapter I: 2.3.1956-25.3.1956; 25.7.-16.8.1956 

1 M. a wicked teacher of wickedness. 

2 M. the wicked teacher of wickedness. 

3 The simple minded view attacked by the sophisticated. 

4 It is misleading to call M. a patriot or a scientist. 

5 M. may have been a teacher of wickedness, although or rather because he 
was a patriot or a scientist. 

6 [no heading, originally no separate paragraph] 

7 = 6 The denial of his wickedness due to his influence. 

8 = 7 It is necessary to understand M. from the front, not from the back. 

9 = 8 M. a fallen angel—a theoretical man. 

10 = 9 M. and the USA. 

11 [no heading, originally no separate paragraph] 

12 = 10 Our task: recovery of the permanent problem. 

I The <dual> twofold character of M/ teaching. 

1 Two books whose relation is obscure. 

2 Prince : Disc. = principalities : republics. 

3 Since republics are not timely, De rep. becomes Disc. 

4 Objections. 

5 Each of the two books contains everything M. knows—no difference of sub¬ 
ject matter. 

6 On the extent of M. knowledge. 

7 [no heading, inserted by Strauss as paragraph 6a] 

8 = 7 The 2 books distinguished by their addressees: actual princes ^ potential 

9 = 8 Prince: brief, urgent, call to action— Disc.: the opposites. 

10 = 9 Prince : master— Disc. : friends. 

11 = 10 Prince less straightforward than Disc. 

12 = 11 First appearance of Prince more traditional than that of Disc. 

13 = 12 Reticences of the Prince. 

14=13 The Disc, too are not altogether frank. 

15 = 14 The Prince in some respects more frank than the Disc. 



16 = 15 Is M.' perspective identical with that of Prince, or of Disc., or different 
from both? 

17 = 16 How to read M. [in pencil:]—as he read Livy. 

18 = 17 According to M., Livy reveals his opinions (= his disagreement with 
common view) most clearly by silence. 

19 = 18 M.' silences: silence about this world, this life, hell, devil and soul. 

20 = 19 His allusion to eternity—creation and to human origin of Christianity. 

21 = 20 His allusion in the beginning of the Prince to the problem of the 

22 = 21 Censorship —> concealment. 

23 = 22 - - - 

24 = 23 Manifest blunders are intentional. 

25 = 24 M., being a clever enemy, is intelligent but not moral. 

26 = 25 Contradiction—here: he cannot introduce the new except by appeal¬ 
ing primarily to ancient antiquity. 

27 = 26 Difference between headings and bodies of chapters: M. does not indi¬ 
cate in headings that the Roman nobility used religion or deception in order 
to control the plebs. 

28 = 27 M.' intention: quasi impossible combination of gravity and levity. 

29 = 28 Alludes to difficulty of knowing his enemy's intention. 

30 = 29 Parody of scholastic disputation—(3 impostors)—M. uses enemy of 
Christianity in order to say truth about Christianity. 

31 = 30 Repetitions. 

32 = 31 Digressions. 

33 = 32 Ambiguous terms. 

34 = 33 Numbers. 

35 = 34 M.' blasphemy. 

36 = 35 Numbers continued. 

37 = 36 Conclusion. 

II. M.' Intention: The Prince 

1 A treatise. 

2 —and a tract for the times. 

3 The movement of the Prince is ascent followed by descent: the <descent> 
center is the peak. 



4 Movement of first part: from the familiar, Here, Now, ordinary to the un¬ 
familiar, ancient, rare, and thereafter descent. [Pencil note above unfamiliar, 
ancient: the highest theme.] 

5 Movement of the 2nd part: quick ascent to the roots of traditional under¬ 
standing of the greatest doers. 

6 Movement in ch. 15-23: ascending to full truth about greatest doers which 
implies uprooting of Great Tradition, and then descent. 

7 Movement in 4th part of Prince. 

8 Tradition —» timeless truth tract for the times) is related to time because 

it is new or revolutionary traditional) 

9 "Treatise—tract" must be understood in the light of "traditional— 

10 The specific difficulty caused by "tract" (= ch. 26): silence about the politi¬ 
cal conditions of liberation of Italy. 

11 Political conditions of liberation of Italy presented surreptitiously in ch. 3-5. 

12 Liberation of Italy requires complete revolution, especially re: morality. 

13 Secularization of the Church—break with Christianity. 

14 The theme of the Prince : prince, but especially new prince. 

15 Ambiguity of "new prince". 

16 Addressee of Prince is advised to become an imitator. 

17 —an imitator of Moses —» he will not conquer Italy. 

18 The appeal to religion in ch. 26 is sufficient proof of the exoteric character 
of the particular council given in ch. 26. 

19 M., the enemy of Fortuna, tries to become the adviser of Lorenzo, the fa¬ 
vorite of Fortuna. 

20 M. not only adviser of Lorenzo but teacher of an indefinite multitude. 

21 M. the new Chiron, not a mere man (he replaces Christ). 

22 The shockingly novel teaching concealed by ch. 26. 

23 M.' patriotism. 

24 His pedagogic policy: toughening up. 

25 M. the new prince, the new Moses. 

26 But M. is an unarmed prophet—is he not bound to fail? 

III. M.' Intention: The Discorsi. 

26.10.-23.12.; 26.3.-27.5.57 

1 Disc. —» republics = peoples —» more frank: Disc, chief source of M.' rhetoric. 

2 Disc.: new modes, orders = modes and orders of antiquity. 



3 Disc.: proof that ancient rules and orders can and ought to be imitated by 
modern men. 

4 Disc.: not to return to rules and practices of the ancients. 

5 Disc. : Livy I-X—united Italy controlled by a hegemonial republic. 

6 Intention of Disc. —» the typical chapter—but a great variety re: character 
of chapters. 

7 The typical chapter of Disc. (Ill 7) —» Disc, deal with the horrors inherent 
in the ultimate causes, and: —> general rules re human conduct derived from 
ancient, modern examples proof of superiority of ancients to moderns). 

8 M. is compelled to argue dialectically: he appeals to a prejudice in favor of 
class, antiquity. 

9 M. is compelled to establish the authority of ancient Rome or of Livy: an¬ 
cient Rome the known jrcrrpiov —» Livy M.' Bible. 

10 On his way from ancient Egypt to ancient Rome M. by-passes the Bible. 

11 M. : Rome, Livy = theological apologetics : Bible. 

12 M.' purpose ^ Livy's purpose —» M.' subject is not Rome at all—it is at least 
as much Asiatic as it is Roman. 

13 M.' Livy * Livy's plan: the authority of the Livian order asserts itself when 
the light of M.' plan is dimmed. 

14 Plan of Disc. II—M. impresses his form on Livian matter— Disc. II devoted 
to critique of Christianity. 

15 Plan of Disc. Ill: private counsel about private benefit; and: why not "use 
of Livy", but "references to Livy". 

16 Plan of Disc. Ill: founder-captain; multitude,- M. himself. 

17 M. another Fabius: the incredibility of his <enterprise> exploration of the 
Ciminian Forest secures him against detection. 

18 First Latin Livy quote prepared by complete break with authority or with 
ayaGov = jtaTpiov. 

19 First Latin Livy quotes re religion: need for Livian authority for attack 
on Christianity—M. changes Livian stories to facilitate <use> imitation of 
ancient religion by modern men. 

20 Second Latin Livy quotes (density) in I 40: perfect neutrality re tyranny— 
freedom—connection between Christianity and tyranny. 

21 First Livy references ( 1 7-8)—ancient Rome : modern Florence, ancient Tus¬ 
cany = politics : religion = accusations : calumnies = aristocracy : democracy. 

22 Criticism of Rome after contrast between moderate foundation of Roman 
republic and barbarian foundation of Moses' kingdom —» not Rome, but Livy, 
a book, is the authority —» entirely new modes and orders. 

23 M.' "faith" in Rome's authority undergoes a radical change in the progress 
from Disc. I 6 to I 59. 



24 Criticism of Rome in Disc. II: Rome criticized not only on political grounds 
but also as trailblazer for, and model of, the Church; the Romans themselves 
did not believe in authority. 

25 Criticism of Rome in III —» the Romans were religious—M. is an enemy 
of the Romans because he is irreligious—not religion but necessity produces 
the highest virtue. 

26 Teaching of Disc, transmitted between the covers of Disc, and of Livy; 
Livy M.' theological authority: the authority as [regards] Fortuna. 

27 Criticism of Livy in Disc. 1 1-57: questionable character of histories; Livy's 
errors on virtue and on plebs. 

28 Criticism of authority in general in Disc. I 1-57: connection between "be¬ 
lief" and "people". 

29 M. attacks in I 58 all writers and authority as such: reason, youth, moder¬ 
nity stand up against authority, old age and antiquity. 

30 M. attacks the whole tradition on democratic grounds; by this he intimates 
that the people ejteiKeTg) are the depositories of morality and religion. 

31 M.' democratism follows from ironical premise that morality is the high¬ 
est, from his being a revolutionary = upstart, from the necessity always to 
appeal to some ev8o£ov. 

32 Prince : Disc. = founder : people (Bible)— Disc, closer to ev8o£a because it 
contains more detailed destructive analysis of ev 5 o£a. 

33 M. makes the ancient Romans "better", i.e. less religious and moral, than 
they were. 

34 Disc. II pr.—there is nothing wrong if a Christian becomes a Turk—higher 
rank of works of art, writings than of deeds. 

3 5 Disc. II 1: M. disagrees with Livy and the Roman people re: fear of fortune, 
but distinguishes between Livy and his characters: Livy perhaps not only ex¬ 
positor but also critic of pagan theology. 

36 Peculiarities of Livy treatment in Disc. II—III: Livy ^ his characters; ser¬ 
mons on Livian texts; Livy fa fede and e testimone. 

37 By using enemies of Rome as his characters, Livy succeeds in being not 
only the expositor of pagan theology but also its critic: his History contains 
both the Roman fraud and its detection. 

38 M. uses Livy book as an instrument (qua expositor of pagan theology) and 
as a model (qua critic of it) for his criticism of Bible—Livy a character of M. 

39 Since Biblical writers do not use enemies of Bible as their mouthpieces, 
one must use pagan literature to discover truth re Bible; pagan letters pre¬ 
served by persecuting Biblical religion because the latter is "disarmed". 

40 Particular incredibility of Bible due to miracles—hence special need for 
extra-Biblical elects. 



41 The self-deception of Biblical writers —» God : Biblical writers = Livy : 
characters of Livy. 

42 Biblical writers "make" God say and do what a perfect being as they con¬ 
ceive of it, ought to say and do. 

43 Livy consciously creates perfect captains (Biblical writers create their great 
captain unconsciously), hence Livy Bible) corrects his creation. 

44 Function of treating Ought as Is: creating hope,- perfect beings needed for 
mastering tu/t] : perfect beings are causes of ru/ripa. Livy presents criticism of 
Roman religion by using characters of characters or by using Romans address¬ 
ing different audiences. Patricians : plebs = clergy : laity. 

45 "Fabius" disregards auspices, debunks a dictator's holy zeal and gets away 
with it. 

46 M. abandons "Livy the teacher of Oughts" as soon as his own intention 
becomes the theme (i.e. in III 35-49). 

47 M. wages a new war against a new enemy in new territory—for his purpose 
he must be a lcnower of sites in Livy. 

48 The first two Livian sermons: Primacy of love or charity leads to pious 

49 The third sermon: the moderns trust Fortuna, the ancients tempted Fortuna. 

50 "Authority—reason" in center of central book (II 10-24) —> the greatest sin 
consists in lack of presumption. 

51 Tacitus is treated as authority par excellence because he is the greatest 
historian who speaks about the origins of Judaism and Christianity. 

52 M. is converted by his credere Tacitus from love to fear (to Moses) and from 
the preserver to the founder. 

5 3 Christ is the synthesis of gentleness and severity—his pride. 

54 M. attacks principle of authority by denying primacy of Love and asserting 
primacy of Terror —> a modest and humane goal—no paradise but therefore 
no hell. 

55 M. communicates the new modes and orders to all, but their ground (athe¬ 
ism) only to the young. 

56 M. is less a conspirator than a corruptor of the coming generations. 

57 The end of Christianity—can be hastened by M.' action. 

58 M.' hope rests on split between ardent and lukewarm Christians = lovers 
of heavenly and earthly fatherland. 

59 M. imitates Christ by propaganda (^ sacrificial death). 

IV. Machiavelli's teaching 
IV 1-42: finished August 31, 1957 



1 Captatio benevolentiae for myself and for M.—esotericism and philosophy. 

2 M. not a "pagan" but a savio del mondo, i.e. a faylasuf [written in Arabic]. 

3 M.' silence about Bible not due to ignorance or indifference. 

4 First statement on essence of Christianity: Christianity has rendered the 
world weak without making it more God-fearing. 

5 2nd statement on essence of Christianity —» Christianity has not shown the 
truth—humility and the God who assumed humiliation. 

6 Third statement: absurdity of do not resist evil. 

7 Specimen of our argument: M. seemingly wrong but actually right. 

8 Weakness of moderns: no modern empire and no strong modern republics. 

9 Christianity stems from the servile East and a weak Eastern nation. 

10 Christianity —» rule of priests = most tyrannical rule. 

11 Rational account of victory of Christianity. 

12 Christian strength and good Christian soldiers: Love—consuming fire— 
hell—stake —» pious cruelty and fanatical zeal. 

13 Propria gloria (consciousness of excellence) vs. gloria Dei (consciousness of 
sin)—for: necessity to sin. 

14 Humanity and goodness vs. humility and cruelty. 

15 Conscience replaced by prudenza. 

16 Providence: M. does not distinguish between the core and the periphery of 
Bible; he identifies providence with God being a just King. 

17 Providence in I. F .: God saves the Florentines by threatening his Vicar with 
the Infidels. 

18 God is a neutral. 

19 Denial of providence and of immortality of the soul. 

20 Denial of man's being the cause of evil and sin —» denial of creation. 

21 Need for recourse to "Averroism" in order to understand M. 

22 No shred of evidence in favor of revelation. 

23 Biblical phenomena matched by pagan phenomena. 

24 In the light of Livy (reason) Christianity appears as an abortive populist 

25 Monotheism: present misery—hope for future—polytheism: present splen¬ 
dor and no hope. 

26 Practically the whole criticism of revelation is Aristotelian—only the op¬ 
posite of humility is not humanity but magnanimity. 

27 Disc, silent about God's or gods' existence. 

28 M. replaces God by Cielo or Cieli—by Fortuna. 



29 M/ tentative theology: there exist compassionate intelligences in the air 
angry and cruel gods]. 

30 M. replaces "signs" by "accidents". 

31 Fortuna an improved image of the Biblical God. 

32 Fortuna = extrinsic accident [in pencil:]—not hopes, but regulate Fortuna. 
3 3 Fortuna far from being heaven has a subordinate place within heaven,- can¬ 
not be completely controlled by man —» dxapa^ia conquest of chance). 

34 The emergence of gods out of cooperation of TU)(r) and fraud. 

35 Contradiction between omnipotence and freedom. 

36 Break with Ar.—turn towards "Democritus". 

37 M. prefers "Aristippus—Diogenes" to Ar. 

38 Religion is essentially untrue belief. 

39 Religion salutary—? It stems from weakness of mind and fosters such 

40 Fear of God can be replaced by fear of prince—a prince cannot be religious. 

41 Even in republics, function of religion can be discharged by other methods. 

42 Religion is needed, especially for the multitude. 

43 Incomprehension of M. (and his successors) due to our being under the 
spell of post French Revolution outlook. 

44 M. more explicit re morality than re religion since morality is less grave 
an issue than religion. 

45 M.' moral-pl. teaching teaching on religion) is radically new—taking 
one's bearing by how men live how they ought to live)—point of view of 
practitioner and therefore normative. 

46 M. reproduces ev8o£a: goodness = moral virtue or = unselfishly benefitting 
others—is happiness (or way to happiness)—ones to ^ onorevole 

47 Conflict between ev8o£a (Aoyoi) and epya —» conflict between Aoyoi; differ¬ 
ence between public and private Aoyoi. 

48 Virtue as mean: equanimity has only one opposite vice which merely ap¬ 
pears as two opposite defects. 

49 Virtue as mean: liberality is not the good mean between prodigality and 
stinginess—stinginess is required by justice. 

50 The right way (the life Kara (puoiv) is indeed a mean—yet a mean not be¬ 
tween opposite vices but between virtue and vice. 

51 M. rejects via del mezzo because it is connected with notion of summum 
bonum and ens perfectissimum, i.e. a good perfectly free from evil. 

52 Virtue is voluntary: M. defends liberum arbitrium against Fortuna (God) 
[inserted in pencil:] Man can be the master of his fate [end of insertion]—but: 



74 The selfish consideration. 

75 Oppression coeval with society —» only difference of degree between best 
republic and worst tyranny. 

76 for: men are bad—i.e. selfish. 

77 The principles of M.' statecraft: men's selfishness and the need for selfreli¬ 
ance (—> virtu). 

78 M .' neutrality re "republics—tyrannies": the only simply common good 
is the truth. 

79 Pol. common good supplemented on the same plane by strictly private 
good (love) —> quest for truth = synthesis of gravity and levity. 

80 Desire for glory —> quest for truth qua beneficial truth [*■ detachment) —> 
bias in favor of republics. 

81 Delusion of glory —» the motive is desire for truth—gravity : levity = 
knowledge of truth : communication of knowledge. 

82 M. breaks with the whole Socratic tradition—he forgets Socrates. 

83 He forgets tragedy. 

84 He sees only the social source of morality: he forgets the soul. 

85 Obfuscation of philosophy and its status — > appearance of radical novelty. 

86 Philosophy —> gulf between philosophers and Sqpog —> punitive rhetoric; 
M. accepts reXq tou Srjpou, because popular — conquest of nature—lowering of 

87 The entering wedge of M.' criticism: encouragement of inventions re war— 
no periodic cataclysms—need for reformulation of "beneficence of nature". 

Finis—Laus Deo. 
December, 9, 1957.